The Ninth General Conference:Islam And The West Past - Present - Future
Specifies of Development of Islam in Ukraine at the Present Stage By: Emir Valeyev
Specifics of Development of Islam in Ukraine at the Present Stage
By: Emir Valeyev President, Islamic Cultural Center Kieve Ukraine
Islam in Ukraine has its ancient history. More than a thousand years ago, messengers from Volga Bulgaria, ancestors of the contemporary Volage Tatars, came to Kiev, capital of Ukraine, with proposals on adopting Islam. The Volga Tatars who observed the Laws of Sharia, built mosques, exercised Muslim rites, traditionally were carriers of this belief in the European part of the former Soviet Union at later times, too.
In 1991, design works for a mosque were started in Kyiv but the on-coming war and revolution did not allow the construction to be completed.
The present Muslims, expect for the Crimean Tatars, appeared in Ukraine over the last 200 or 300 years. The majority of those were the Volga Tatars dealing with trade.
Under the Soviet power (after 1917), the main stream of Muslims was being formed by the mass organized recruitments for building the biggest Dnieper hydroelectric station and Donbass coal mines. That's why the largest Muslim communes are in the Donetsk oblast and Zaporizhya. Now, Muslim communes are registered in Crimea, cities of Kiev, Donetsk, Zaporizhya, Kharkiv, Lviv, Poltava, Kherson and Cherkassy. Three spiritual boards are active in Kiev, Donetsk, and Simferopil.
Democratization of relations in the former USSR, especially in independent Ukraine, promoted development of the Muslim infrastructure. Some Muslim newspapers are published; courses and schools are opened to teach Islam and Muslim cultural achievements. In leased promises Friday prayers are made, Muslim ceremonies of birth, marriage and burial are carried out. Religious holidays are solemnly celebrated, specifically Kurban Bairm and Uraza-Bairam.
Charity work is ready carried out among the sick laid poor. Every year, some children are sent for improving their health to Turkey, with the help from the Red Crescent Committee. Mounajats are performed at festivities by Muslim Tatar female folk chorus.
In this brief report, I would like to tell the participants of the conference about some results of the analysis of Islam development in Ukraine.
For more than eight years, the speaker was taking active part in organizing and developing national and Muslim organizations in Ukraine. Meets and talks with Muslim leaders of Russia, delegates of a number of Muslim conferences, held in Moscow, allowed the analysis to be performed of the specifics consideration which is extremely important for successful development in such countries as Ukraine.
1. Multi- confession nature of religions in Ukraine.
2. Specific situation of Ukraine as the Christianity emergence center on the ex-USSR territory.
3. A small number of areas with compact residence of Muslims that has resulted in their territorial dissociation (dispersion).
4. Considerable assimilation of indigenous Muslims, high quantity of mixed marriages.
5. Extremely insufficient number of highly educated Muslim preachers originated from the indigenous Muslim environment. As a result, taking part in Islamic development in Ukraine are a great number of foreign citizens not aware of local traditions and ethnic specifics of the local Muslims. These are mainly students from Near East countries whose Russian language is not adequate for delivering sermons at the high level. This leads to washing out these traditions and features, results in displeasure among the indigenous Muslims, reduces the number of believers and increases their reluctance to unite. The intellectual level of the Muslim communes falls down because some casual people appear who aren't a sample of Islam's beneficial influence upon the man in their behavior, attitude to near ones, general education level. The most dangerous point is, however, that such people often regard Islam as a source of their personal enrichment.
Besides that, failure to know and recognize the contribution that the indigenous Muslims (Volga Bulgars) paid to development of the Islamic teaching and age-old historical traditions and achievements of Islam in the European part of the former Soviet Union, causes the negative attitude the idea of uniting around such spiritual leaders among the most educated and intellectual part of Muslims.
6. Absence of mosques and comfortable praying premises actually all over the territory of Ukraine (except for Crimea). This complicates the process of forming Muslim communes.
7. Low financial capabilities of businessmen representing indigenous Muslims. This fact results in absence of any practical assistance to Muslim communes on their part.
8. Ukrainian writers, poets, art and education workers, mass media people, state officials responsible for religious problems in Ukraine have very poor and superficial knowledge of Islam, its teachings and traditions. For this reason, the overwhelming part of the Ukrainian population has a perverted idea of Islam, materials about Islamic traditions are presented wrongly in art works, school textbooks, Radio and Television broadcasts.
9. Lack of assistance from Muslim countries as to the Muslim infrastructure development and charity activities, especially as compared with such kind of foreign assistance to other confessions.
Analysis of these specific features of Islam development in Ukraine allows the following conclusions to be made:
1. Development of a concept and implementation of a program of distributing valid information about Islamic teachings and achievements among not only- and even not so much as- among Muslims, but also among non-Muslim people of Ukraine. Propagation of Islamic ideas with using technical capabilities of radio and television, organizing various inter-confession meetings, colloquy, youth camps, exhibitions and contests. Creation of a TV and radio station to prepare and broadcast teachings and news programs about Islam, Friday prayers, information about life of Muslims in Ukraine and their brothers abroad.
These would allow :
- to improve mutual understanding between Muslims and other believers, demonstrate Islam's great tolerance to other religions;
- to increase the number of Muslim religion adherents;
- to attract new believers and friends of Islam, especially from the hesitating; - to create favourable conditions for Islamic development.
2. Construction of mosques at the rate outstripping the number of believers in any specific area. As the first stage taking on lease comfortable praying premises.
This is especially important for large cities and the capital of Ukraine. The latter case must be approached with the understanding that Kyiv is the capital of a large European state. Such an approach is required in the current transition period of Islamic development in Ukraine.
3. Methodological assistance to Muslim communes, creation of a permanent commission (Shura) in cooperation with representatives of spiritual boards of Muslims republics of the former Soviet Union, to prepare (and in the first stage, invite) highly educated I.... and preachers with great life experience, broad-minded, who would be a living example of Islam's capabilities in developing the personality and who would prevent local Muslim communes from getting involved in political problems of our brothers abroad.
4. Material and financial aid from international Muslim organizations to create the Muslim infrastructure in the current stage of Islamic development in Ukraine (construction of mosques, maintenance of communes, execution of rites, publication of printed materials, preparation of TV and radio broadcasts, etc.)
For this task to be solved, International Muslim organizations should first revise criteria and estimates in decision-making about reasonability and necessity of some or other kind of aid to Muslims of Ukraine. Importance of this region should be taken into account as one of the new big European states where representatives of many confessions actively struggle for believers
5. Creation of joint production enterprises, formation of a public catering network, organization of the services sphere with using the labour of Muslims. This would allow to solve problems of social security for Muslims under the hard economic situation suffered by Ukraine.
In our opinion, taking the above-mentioned of Islamic development in Ukraine into consideration would allow the achievements of Ukrainian Muslims to be raised to a higher level, would promote greater understanding between nations of Ukraine and Muslim world countries.